Public Vulgarity and Claire Danes


With stimulating nightlife at an all-time low thanks to all those pesky raids and regulations, one submits to the same old gay bars, sort of like Elizabeth Smart did with her creepy captor. Stockholm syndrome takes over as I find myself at various ultra-familiar dives so many times that I not only know each place’s resident clown, house geezer, and slut mascot, I’ve become them. But leave your expectations at the whore, I mean the door, and these last-ditch boîtes can actually be engaging, with desperate pleasures for those who’d rather find amusement in raunchy strangers with loud voices and weird teeth than face anything resembling alone time.

One night at Barracuda in Chelsea, drag star Shasta Cola was doing brilliant shtick on virtually every syllable, turning Whitney Houston‘s “I Have Nothing” into a veritable crack opera and the Eurythmics‘ “Sweet Dreams” into a hilariously paranoid s&m fantasy. But I had less than nothing. A guy in the crowd promised he’d send me a chinchilla coat if I made him famous, but he ended up being thrown out for trying to expose himself. He probably wasn’t the major furrier he claimed to be anyway.

At the freshman-filled Pop Rocks, the offers kept coming when a go-go boy/hairdresser promised me free extensions, cooing, “If you can’t achieve it, I’ll weave it. If you can’t grow it, I’ll sew it.” Honey, if you comp it, it will grow!

All offers were accepted at Beige, where I broke the house rule and became the first person there to ever take someone home—but even the faux furrier would have made a better husband. I’ll call the Beige guy “Fire-Alarm Joey” because after he tried to trick me into barebacking, I showed him the door, prompting him to vengefully set off the alarms in my luxury doorman building. I should have heard the alarm when I first met this freak, but I couldn’t resist his opening salvo (said through a tina haze): “You’re lovely. I want you to ride me all night. Why are we still here?”

But back to less life-threatening entertainment: At the comfy bar XES, wacky drag host Mimi Imfurst guides customers through karaoke evenings where Jesus Christ Superstar is a little too popular and brazen strip contests where one night the token fag hag flashed her ample cleavage but strangely refused to show her nipples. And they said class was dead. Things stayed super-elegant at Pieces, where a frisky wannabe was grinding his butt into my crotch while announcing, “My specialty is barebacking!” Uh-oh, fire alarms. “ Carson Kressley once pushed me away” was the vexing vixen’s other claim to fame, and one started suspecting that harassing is really his specialty (while vehemently pushing him away, of course).

At the Plumm, a whole other enterprising young gent was running around in his undies, bellowing, “You can fuck me if you take my photo!” The guy drives a hard bargain. Instead, I graced the woozy chicken ranch known as Rush—stay with me—where an angel-faced ‘tween was angstily murmuring to me, “I’m here to stake out my boyfriend. He’s doing it with one of the go-go boys here and when he shows up, I’m gonna give him hell!” And suddenly the exit looked like the portal to Mecca.

There was some relief over at the tuck-and-pluck eatery Lips, where saucily talented showgals like Rajene, Ariel, Ginger, and Belinda entertained with shaved legs spread. “This is where things go downhill,” warned Gusty Winds after a drag queen got applause for sticking an audience member’s head under her dress. Even further? “Rock bottom always has a trap door,” advised Gusty. See, it was time for the fake-an-orgasm contest, which climaxed, so to speak, with the lady who moaned “Oh yes, daddy, right there, right there!” losing to the one who more deftly whinnied, “Ay, papi! Aquí! Aquí!”

Are you starting to see why, when a new Thursday-night party called Sebastian (at the Madison, formerly Eugene) came around, an inordinate amount of pressure was put on it to save all of nightlife? Fortunately, the bash, courtesy of Kenny Kenny and Josh Wood, brought out a healthy salad bar of cute guys and fabulous freakies so eye-catching you’d be fucking yourself if you didn’t take their photo. In the crowd, gorgeous drag diva Epiphany wore a lot of jewelry, “to cover all the hair”; a trannie hostess yelled at a guy to put his shirt back on, insisting “This isn’t a beach!”; and the tireless gay male in a woman’s body, Ladyfag, taunted me with her pussy, then said, “You wouldn’t know what to do with it!” Oh, yeah? Well . . . you’re right! At the evening’s peak, one reveler ran for his life, shrieking, “This party wasn’t for me. I guess I’m not pretty enough or something.” Someone with actual values? Get the hell out, mister, and stay out!

By the way, the same place’s owner, legendary Gene DiNino, is telling friends he might reopen the Roxy right back where it was. Oh, good, I’ve been standing outside since it closed.

I was now going to announce that we’d be moving on to more highbrow culture by discussing the scene over at Pygmalion, but halfway through that revival I actually heard an audience member say to his wife, “Where are the songs?” “I told you it wasn’t the musical!” screeched wifey. Even without tunes, Claire Danes is great as the coarse Eliza and fun as the remade Eliza, though she’s less adept at playing the bitter, used broad. And Jefferson Mays is an interesting choice for Henry Higgins, bringing quirks, if not that much authority or revelation. Naturally, Hugh Dancy was in the audience—he sleeps with Danes, he knows Mays and Boyd Gaines from Journey’s End, and maybe he just wanted to see it.

Over at The Ritz—a show with far fewer costumes—a cast member told me, “Thank God you came on a Saturday evening. Ben Brantley came to a Sunday matinee!” Another Saturday night brought Charles Busch‘s Die Mommie Die!, the hyper-funny high-camp melodrama with homages to Dead Ringer, The Big Cube, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, and other TCM chestnuts. I giddily spotted the references while a fellow audience member whispered that he wished he were seeing Die Mamma Mia! Die!

Sexy serial killer Anthony Hopkins premiered his dream within a dream called Slipstream at MOMA and said, “You’ll see it’s a little strange, deliberately so. It may irritate you . . . but thank you very much.” The dreamlike state continued at the after-dinner, where Charlene Rose—the film’s Dolly Parton look-alike—told me she recently performed with Rilo Kiley, the band whose guitarist Winona Ryder is hot for. Backstage, Winona told Charlene to give Hopkins her regards. “Sure, what’s your last name?” asked Charlene, innocently. “Ryder,” said Ryder. “Oh, I hope you don’t steal like that other Winona Ryder,” cracked Charlene, not realizing. I love this woman. Thank you very much.

By any name, the New York Film Festival closed with Persepolis, the inventive animated film based on
Marjane Satrapi
‘s autobiographical graphic novel about an Iranian Eloise growing up through political tumult, a gay boyfriend, and a grandmother who soaks her tits in ice water, even her nipples. In the midst of the Café des Artistes dinner for the film, Satrapi left her ice water on the table to go outside and smoke like a chimney as she fielded my queries. Was her childhood in Iran all bad? “Primo Levi said total happiness doesn’t exist,” Satrapi replied, puffing away. “Total sadness doesn’t exist either. We had our good moments.” What brought her the most pleasure? “Smoking in the toilet with friends,” she admitted. “I loved putting something forbidden in my mouth in the toilet.” And she didn’t even have to tap in the stall!

Rather than open the trap door, I’ll leave you with total happiness: I hear that in Kimberly Peirce‘s film Stop Loss, there’s a scene where Channing Tatum appears in wet underwear and wrestles. You’re lovely, Channing. Why are we still here? Aquí! Aquí!